Los Angeles Clippers (42-23) @ Houston Rockets (34-33)
6:30 p.m. PST
March 16, 2016
ESPN/ Fox Prime Ticket
1. Ugh. How do the Clippers bounce back on the second game of a back-to-back after getting run over by 20 points in the final frame to the Spurs?
Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU): Well, not to be this guy, but the Clippers need to win. It’s just that simple. The Clippers knew the good times without Blake Griffin would only last so long. L.A.’s schedule for the remainder of the month is as rough as any NBA team will see all year. It would be nice for the Clippers if someone besides DeAndre Jordan and Cole Aldrich could grab a rebound in Houston.
Ben Mesirow (@SemNeb): It’s a tall order to play your two most recent playoff opponents on back-to-back nights on the road, and it’s got to be a drag to try to get back up after a dud in game one. But such is life in the NBA. I think the Clippers have to focus in on the things they do well, and try to get out to a fast start. Houston has been hot, but their record is still barely above .500, and chemistry and effort problems aren’t all the way in the rearview. If the Clippers can show that they aren’t going to roll over and blame tired legs, they’ve got a shot.
Roscoe Whalan (@RoscoeWhalan): Man, I hardly got these questions answered between last night and tonight… Imagine trying to back it up after another game getting walked over in the final frame. Calling Blake Griffin? If not, clone Chris Paul? Yes, that’s the answer: clone Chris.
2. Wait, the Rockets are only half a game out of 6th. When did that happen?
Murray: It happened when the calendar flipped to March. The Rockets lost 6 of their last 8 games in February, a period of time that saw them attempt to trade Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to the Pistons, only for that trade to get voided. Oh snap! Don’t look now, but the last time the Rockets had a trade with the Pistons voided, Robert Horry wound up coming back to Houston to get the first of those seven rings. Alas, the Rockets have won 5-of-7 in March, with a 49-point win over the Grizzlies Monday night. @Clippers, please don’t tweet out about how much you didn’t lose by Wednesday night.
Mesirow: Good question. After 60 or so games of mostly lazy and disinterested basketball the Rockets may finally be starting to fire up their engines. They already have impressive wins in Toronto and Boston this month, and they just obliterated the undermanned Grizzlies. Talent was never the issue in Houston, and if they’re clicking now they could prove a scary opponent for someone in the first round.
Whalan: Great question! A 49-point win over the Grizzlies put them back on my radar for sure! Since they bought out Ty Lawson? They’re 5-2 since then with impressive wins over Toronto, Boston and Memphis in the past couple of weeks.
3. How much are these two teams responsible for the “disappointing Western Conference” conversation?
Murray: Not much at all, because they’re both set to make the postseason. The Clippers may have had heightened expectations (something that you’ve NEVER heard from me and never will) going into this season, but at the same time, they exceeded expectations once Griffin went down. Meanwhile, the Rockets are still on the good side of .500. Don’t worry too much about the Clippers and Rockets. Focus your attention on the New Orleans Pelicans, who completely fell apart before the season even got cold. Or better yet, focus on the Eastern Conference! There are 15 other teams in the NBA!
Mesirow: Is the Western Conference actually disappointing? I don’t think the Clippers have been – they’re currently a half step outside of true contender range, and still fighting for the three seed – and Portland and Dallas have also exceeded expectations. The Rockets, on the other hand, have been pretty tremendously disappointing so far. To go from last year’s two seed and Western Conference Finalist to .500 and barely in the playoffs without losing any major pieces is a sharp decline. So I’d say the blame rests more on the Rockets, as well as with the Jazz and the Pelicans, if we want to talk about Western Conference disappointments.
Whalan: They’re characters but certainly not protagonists. I agree, with Law, the star of that show certainly would have to be the New Orleans Pelicans. I’m not sure so much if the Clippers and Rockets have taken a step back so much as the Warriors and Spurs have just taken a giant leap forward. That said, both teams, whether it’s due to Blake Griffin’s misdemeanors or the firing of a Houston head coach, have contributed to the “disappointing Western Conference” narrative. But how bout that East, right?